Sunday 27 January 2019

Hill walking in rural Andalucia

I'm linking up with The Sunday Post at Caffeinated Reviewer.

I've had a fab week here in Andalusia! Our current campsite, Camping Rural Presa La Vinuela, has fab views out over a reservoir lake and we have been going walking by the water and over the hills for a couple of hours pretty much every day. We initially thought we might be here 3-4 nights. Tonight will be the 10th night and I think we might well be doing a few more yet. Right now I am watching a flock of 200-300 (at least) smallish seagulls (terns maybe?) who group together and fly around the lake every evening, presumably just for the hell of it!

Yesterday I amazed myself by walking to the local grocery shop without stopping on the way. It's only a kilometre or so away and I know that doesn't sound like much of an achievement! However, as you can see if you squint at the photo below, the campsite is just downhill behind me. The shop is one of the white buildings at the top of this hill in front of me. I swear if it was any steeper, I'd need ropes and crampons to get there ;-)

We've managed to avoid ghastly weather so far this month. There are frequently high winds here, but it's dry and there's no sign of snow coming this way. (That's a cloud on the hill in the top pic.) Commiserations to anyone who's already fed up with miserable winter weather or who is baking in Australia. I can't even imagine how to cope with day after day of over 45 degrees.

In bookish news, congratulations to Ichabod who won the Witch's Moonstone Locket by Marsha A Moore giveaway! Hope you love the book, Icky!
Did you all get your free Mamachari Matchmaker by S J Pajonas short story? Stephanie (fab name, no?!) is offering free downloads until the 1st Feb to celebrate her birthday so Happy Birthday to her!

Giveaways closing soon
27th Jan: A Moleskine travel journal to celebrate the A Heart in the Right Place by Heide Goody and Iain Grant blog tour
31st Jan: Winter's Heist by Emily Duvall paperback
$25 Amazon gift card to celebrate the By Any Means by James Morris blog tour
$10 Amazon gift card to celebrate the The Princess of Baker Street by Mia Kerick blog tour
Free Literary Flits Spotlight book promo post
3rd Feb: (post on 1st Feb) Oh What A Pavlova by Isabella May to celebrate her The Cocktail Bar blog tour)
(All current giveaways here)

On my blogs this week were:

Stephanie Jane
#Veganuary Food Diary - Week Three
The best of Gibraltar? Alameda Botanical Gardens

Literary Flits
By Any Means by James Morris Spotlight + Giveaway + Excerpt
The Princess of Baker Street by Mia Kerick Spotlight + Giveaway + Excerpt
Mamachari Matchmaker by S J Pajonas short story review + Free Book
A Heart in the Right Place by Heide Goody and Iain Grant Spotlight + Giveaway + Excerpt
The Monsoon Ghost Image by Tom Vater thriller review
Vizilsan: Blue Rabbit's Crystal by Marko Marković graphic novel review
Pocket Poets: Rupert Brooke poetry review

Airing Out
Aire - Alcaidesa Marina - La Linea de la Concepcion - Spain

Love this Patricia Vonne song Guitarras y Castanuelas, inspired by her Andalusian heritage

Friday 25 January 2019

The best of Gibraltar? Alameda Botanical Gardens

Tree sculpture at Alameda 
We spent three nights last week parked up at the Alcaidesa Marina at La Linea de la Concepcion in order to spend time with a friend whose boat was berthed there. Being within easy walking distance of the Rock of Gibraltar we decided to visit. It's a strange place! Still owned by Britain, our visit began with having to show our passports, then we had to wait a few minutes for a Moroccan Airlines aeroplane to take off before we could walk across the airport runway to enter Gibraltar proper. Neither of us had ever walked across an international airport runway before so it seemed quite weird. It was easy to spot the tourists because we were all taking pictures and videos of ourselves right by this plane! The locals weren't at all fazed.

To be honest I didn't much like Gibraltar. After the relaxed attitude of Spain it was difficult to immediately adjust to the British all-in-a-rush style. Even things like pedestrian crossing etiquette becomes British - in Spain cars nearly always voluntarily stop when a pedestrian appears to want to cross the road. On Gibraltar (and in Britain) cars won't stop unless they have a red traffic light and absolutely have to. The shops are predominantly British chains - Marks And Spencer, Costa Coffee, etc - aI was overwhelmed by just how packed and busy it is. And expensive! We had been told that the monkeys at the top of the Rock are essential viewing, but it was going to cost over €15 for the return cable car ride. €15 each! And I hate heights!

Instead, we kept walking just past the cable car base station and climbed a crescent-shaped flight of steps into a welcome oasis of calm - The Alameda Botanical Gardens! The Gardens were founded just over 200 years ago, in 1816, but had been allowed to fall into disrepair in the 1970s. The Gardens we strolled around are a result of rehabilitation started in 1991. There is an outdoor theatre, a small wildlife area which houses exotic pets confiscated by Gibraltar customs officers, an allotment area where local children are growing their own food plants, an outdoor art gallery with additional sculptures dotted around the Gardens, and, of course, an impressive array of botanical specimens from countries around the world. We didn't visit the wildlife, but did spend a while admiring the art which, at the moment, is a selection of winning images from the Photographer Of The Year competition. Our favourite was this photograph which was taken in South America:

Ingenious irrigation system in the allotment 
Alcaidesa Marina at sunset

Sunday 20 January 2019

Discovering proper Sherry in Jerez de la Frontera

I'm linking up with The Sunday Post at Caffeinated Reviewer.

Our two-night stay in Jerez de la Frontera got off to a great start when, upon arriving at our motorhome aire, La Morada Del Sur, we were each given a complimentary glass of locally made sherry. I remembered sherry as a dubiously tasting liqueur that Nana might sip out of a tiny glass at Christmas. The dust-covered English bottles are a totally different beverage to the real Spanish version. Spanish cream sherry is delicious and dangerously moreish! We just had to buy ourselves a whole bottle!

Jerez de la Frontera is a lovely historic town. It's a little bit touristy, but not too much so and we enjoyed spending a day wandering around and pointing at things. The highlight was undoubtedly the beautiful Alcazar which was bought in the 1920s by one of the rich sherry families and has been restored for the town. Originally a Moor fortress and palace, it contains a bath house and a small mosque, both with wonderfully elegant architecture. The three-roomed palace overlooks a fountained courtyard, and the current custodians have recreated a typical kitchen garden as well.

There's a small art gallery within the main house displaying a dozen or so large vintage posters for Jerez events and fiestas - one was from the late 1800s. On the top floor is a superb recreated pharmacy which was rescued from a convent in the early 20th century. It has huge dark wood display units with all kinds of bottles and jars as well as lots of the pharmacist's tools and equipment for making lotions and potions. Jerez Alcazar is a fascinating place and excellent value at just €1.80 each to get in.

In bookish news, I'm currently reading a memoir written by a Vietnamese woman who is not going to survive colon cancer: The Unwinding Of The Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams. It sounds like it should be depressing, but is unexpectedly uplifting. I hope to blog my review on Literary Flits on Wednesday.

Giveaways closing soon
I've got four new Literary Flits giveaways for you this week starting with romantic suspense novel Winter's Heist by Emily Duvall today. There's several closing this week too:

24th Jan: Win paperback copies of of Flygirl by R D Kardon plus a notebook and a mug
24th Jan: Win a signed copy of all three books in the Women of Purgatory series (Raven's Breaths, Dark Abigail, and Holli's Hellfire) to celebrate the release of Holli's Hellfire by Tish Thawer
26th Jan: Win an ebook copy of Witch's Moonstone Locket by Marsha A Moore
27th Jan: (post on 24th) Win a Moleskine Journal to celebrate the A Heart In The Right Place by Heide Goody and Iain Grant blog tour
(All current giveaways here)

On my blogs this week were:

Stephanie Jane
#Veganuary Food Diary - Week Two
Books From The Backlog - The Judgement Of Richard Richter by Igor Stiks

Literary Flits
Flygirl by R D Kardon Spotlight + #Giveaway + Excerpt
Spiral Of Silence by Elvira Sanchez-Blake review
Holli's Hellfire by Tish Thawer Spotlight + #Giveaway
Spiral Into Darkness by Joseph Lewis Spotlight
UK2 by Terry Tyler review
All Things by Amber Belldene review (Veganuary read)
Winter's Heist by Emily Duvall Spotlight + #Giveaway + Q And A

Airing Out
Aire - La Morada Del Sur Parking - Jerez De La Frontera - Spain

Sunday 6 January 2019

Sitting On The Border

Oil drum wall 
I'm linking up with The Sunday Post at Caffeinated Reviewer.

I'm writing this post from a campsite  near the village of Odeleite - practically on the Portugal-Spain border, up on a plateau with gorgeous panoramic views for miles and miles. We can see the Guadiana river (the actual border) from our pitch and we're still just on the Portuguese side. Our current campsite is actually a motorhome aire owned by the local hunting association which, admittedly, isn't very Veganuary, but we've not heard anyone shooting at the wildlife yet! It's an amazing 8 euros a night including electricity and there's fantastic walking routes right from our doorstep. We've been out for great hikes on each of the past three days and are considering delaying our planned departure from Tuesday until Friday or beyond so we can do even more wandering.

Our motorhome is second from the right 

The oil drum wall pictured at the top of this post is part of a small ramshackle encampment nearby where a woman seems to live on her own and keeps an assortment of ducks, geese, chickens and guinea fowl. Most of the place looks as though it was built from recycled materials. It's brilliant!

Traditional farming is apparently still practiced around here (according to one of our Walk Route leaflets anyway). We've not yet seen anyone using a horse-drawn plough, but a wandering shepherd brought his flock of sheep and goats across the land just below our aire on Friday. He had about half a dozen dogs 'helping', only one of which looked like how I envisage a Collie sheepdog. The others were mostly guess-the-breed mutts, but they were certainly enthusiastic!

In bookish news, I've got two giveaway winners to announce today! Congratulations to Keith who won the My Dream Woman by C H Clepitt ebook and to author Marsha A Moore who is this month's Literary Flits Spotlight Post winner!
Also let's welcome chucklesthescot to WorldReads. She's blogged books set in the Arctic.

Giveaways closing soon
6th Jan: Derrick by Russell ebooks
(All current giveaways here)

On my blogs this week were:

Stephanie Jane
A Month In Books - December 2018
Books From The Backlog - UK2 by Terry Tyler
December Challenges Wrapup - Bookish Bingo
#WorldReads - Five Books From Argentina

Literary Flits
Crush by Richard Siken review
Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey review
Crazy As Chocolate by Elisabeth Hyde review
The Bead Collector by Sefi Atta review
Incident At Diamond Springs by Kendall Hanson review + #FreeBook
Farm Land: Sentience by Gemma Lawrence review
Black Holes by Ochi review + #FreeBook

Airing Out
No new campsites this week

One of the views from our pitch 

Guadiana River